Posted on July 23, 2019 By Art Feierman
BenQ HT5550 Projector Review: Special Features 2- Cinema filter for wider color/DCI-P3, CFI, Audio system, HDR (gamma/EOTF) settings
To improve color accuracy, some inaccuracies, largely due to the color spectrum coming from a projector lamp, some companies started long ago, adding a “cinema” filter to the light path to provide more accurate color. It works. I can track the use of Cinema filters back well over a decade. You end up with potentially superior color, but there’s a price to pay – and that price is fairly steep in terms of brightness. Moving a cinema filter into the path typically will reduce overall brightness by 30%-50%. That’s significant.
That’s why we did two different calibrations for 4K – Best and Brightest. In Brightest mode, we are not using the Cinema filter. In Best, we are. With both calibrated, “Brightest” mode, is almost twice as bright as “Best” mode. With Brightest mode the filter is not used, and the color space is set to standard REC709. With the filter, the color space is P3 which is the superior color associated with the BT.2020 standard used in movie theaters – referred to as DCI with P3 color.
For perspective, the superior color is a viewable difference, but it is not dramatic. The effects of HDR are far greater, compared to SDR than the difference between REC709 and P3. You might notice the improvement – in the form of smoother (not banded) gradations such as the subtle shift of color in a blue sky. Unfortunately, by the time I take photos and compress them to web size, even REC709 looks like a distant dream, so I haven’t come up with a good way to demonstrate. The images just look a touch different, not better/worse.
The HT5550 serves up some very good color – right out of the box, and even better calibrated. Our best 4K with HDR and P3 color mode, looks great, with especially good, and natural-looking skin tones.
A Cinema filter gives you options – if you need lots of brightness you get some really good color. If you have your room properly darkened, so you don’t need the brightness, then get slightly better color using the filter, and enjoy.
I used the CFI on the HT5550 primarily for sports. The lowest setting for me is still over the top for movies (as is the case IMO of most CFI implementations on projectors). Myself, I notice the effects of CFI on movies with almost any projector, but so far, mostly only Sony models have a CFI mode where I’ve been able to add some smoothing, but then not notice it when watching the movie.
As the saying goes – using CFI tends to mess with the “director’s intent.” I like to use the example of the Bourne movies, where there is a ton of intentional camera shake on the action scenes. In theory, a strong CFI setting will remove some of that shake, providing a less dynamic scene.
Overall, BenQ’s CFI is pretty typical. Nothing to be concerned about, nothing to be overly excited about. If you like CFI use it.
Just remember, with those movies, smoothing out the action a bit does change the director’s intent. Think about it, they use a lot of intentional camera shake on some action movies – think Bourne). CFI can actually remove some of that, which means it is “changing the director’s intent.” Tsk! Tsk!
The HT5550 is not a smart projector in the Smart TV sense: No Netflix or other apps.
For owners without an AV receiver, if a cable box or 4K Blu-ray player is hooked directly up to the BenQ, then you have an extra way of feeding that audio to an outboard – and hopefully serious sound system! BTW, when I say extra, that Blu-ray player or 4K one, almost certainly will have other audio outputting abilities, such as digital optical (Toslink).
Speakers On Board? – No.
The HT5550 is a dedicated home theater type projector. Traditionally such projectors do not have built-in sound. The idea is always that if you are going to the trouble of having a nice home theater/cave/media room, with a killer picture, then you want the accompanying sound to sound a whole lot better than a $49 boom box! The sound you get out of home entertainment projectors (which almost all have speakers onboard), is typically at best as good as a really low-cost Bluetooth speaker.
The projector is, however, equipped with the usual stereo audio out. Mind you, unlike typical home theater projectors, the HT5550 does have a media player! It is a basic one – it will show photos, videos and audio. But nothing sophisticated such as being able to display Microsoft Office documents. (yes you can convert your powerpoint to jpegs and run them through the media player, but you can’t just run Office files like XLSX, DOCS and DOCX…
Certainly, we’ve never seen a traditional home projector with sound rivaling even a $200 or $300 complete Home Theater in a Box, at your local Best Buy, or on Amazon. The one exception may be this new generation of Ultra short throw projectors, as some have built-in what might be the equivalent of a very good TV soundbar.
On this side by side (Epson on left), the overall "gamma" EOTF, is much brighter on the BenQ, with it set for -1, while the Epson is set for 4 (still brighter than the default setting of 8)
Same exposure as previous, BenQ set to -1, Epson set to 1, (brightest EOTF). Note this brightest setting has the Epson very similar in the mid-ranges to the BenQ. Yet I think 5-8 are the Epson's HDR optimum settings.
There is no gamma when in HDR, instead a similar process is EOTF. In the case of the HT5500, there are five settings choices: -2, -1, 0, +1, +2
I mention many times in this review that the HDR picture of this BenQ tends toward bright. The middle setting 0, definitely is that, so +1, and +2, were way over the top for me.
This photo player has the same image, same exposure, for 0, -1, and -2. You’ll notice there is a rather substantial difference between them. Personally, I mostly prefer -1, but I’ve used -2 almost as much. I have used 0 as well, but often when the room isn’t fully darkened. You may like it brighter than I do.
Bright scenes show every bit as much difference between the settings.
Even at -2 I find the BenQ a bit more bright (but just a little) in the upper ranges, than several other very good 4K projectors.
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)